Concert Reviews

Griffin House, Matthew Perryman Jones Impress at Sold-Out NYC Show

Nashville came to City Winery last night when singer-songwriters Griffin House and Matthew Perryman Jones performed to a sold-out crowd. Weaving poignant tales of heartbreak, love and loss alongside solid covers by Patty Griffin, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, the duo captivated.

Matthew Perryman Jones kicked off the night onstage alone with acoustic guitar for the haunting “Hole In My Heart.” The emotional number saw his whispered vocals rise and fall impeccably with a striking crescendo mid-track, further exhibiting his prowess.

“While I’m here in New York City I’d like to invite New York’s own Rosie Golan to the stage,” Jones said before the duo performed the beautiful fast-paced “Rain or Shine” with spot-on harmonies.

“That song was pretty much the only uptempo song I have for the whole night so drink up,” Jones quipped.

He wasn’t lying. The remainder of the set included powerful ballads like the slowed “O, Virginia,” positive love song “Until the Last Falling Star” previously featured in “Grey’s Anatomy,” and a striking performance of “Save You” by Jones and New York-based singer Katie Costello.

Jones prefaced his cover of Patty Griffin’s “Top of the World,” by explaining how he got involved with The Voice Project, a non-profit created to raise awareness for children forced to serve as soldiers in Central Africa. After he found out Costello covered his song, “Save You,” he decided to lend his voice to the cause.

Matthew Perryman Jones » Patty Griffin from The Voice Project on Vimeo.

Jones ended his set with an impressive cover of Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me.” Confessing that it took years before he appreciated Waits as a musician, he comically compared Waits’ music to drinking a really good scotch for the first time.

Friend and fellow Nashville musician Griffin House took the stage next with guitar and harmonica in hand. With delicate strumming on acoustic guitar and smooth vocals, House captivated the audience with his first song of the night, “Native.” He segued quickly into the more upbeat “River City Lights” before garnering screams from the audience for fan favorite “Waiting for the Rain to Come.”

Before the poignant “I Remember (It’s Happening Again),” House told City Winery that this past summer was the end of an era for him when his grandfather died. Reminiscing about the stories his grandpa used to tell him and how they flew to New York to make a music video for the song, House told a moving tale with wailing harmonica accompaniment and striking lyrics.

“Better Than Love,” a song that means more to him now than when first written, followed suit as the audience sang along word for word. Having just had a daughter 12 weeks ago, House said the track has taken on new meaning.

“I sing that to her sometimes. She also likes “Polk Salad Annie” by Elvis and all Johnny Cash so she’s definitely mine,” he joked.

The rest of his set included standout covers by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash as well as older fan favorites that had the entire room singing and laughing along to the stories behind each track. House told the room that the comical “Colleen” was written for his sister’s roommate that “I thought was really hot.” The best kiss of death song because it embarrassed everyone involved, he had the venue laughing along at his quirky, yet relatable lyrics.

The beautiful “The Guy Who Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind” continued to mesmerize as the room fell silent before House exited the stage. Not for too long, though as he ended his set with a solid five-song encore.

For more on each artist, visit their Websites. Matthew Perryman Jones performs tonight at Rockwood Music Hall at 8:30 p.m. Catch Griffin House Wednesday at The Living Room at 10 p.m.

Related Links:
Artist of the Week: Matthew Perryman Jones
Q&A with Griffin House
Q&A with Matthew Perryman Jones
Matthew Perryman Jones’ Intimate Performance at New York’s Living Room
Interviews Q&A

Q&A with Griffin House

Well respected for his honest and heartfelt lyrics, singer-songwriter Griffin House is currently on an East Coast tour with friend and fellow musician Matthew Perryman Jones.

“We’re both going to be playing acoustic sets. That’s kind of rare for both of us because we generally either take a band out or have some kind of accompaniment with us,” House said. “We’re looking forward to stripping it down and having some conversation with the audience just playing solo.”

House moved to Nashville in 2003 to pursue music. Since then, he’s been traveling the country and moving audiences everywhere with his confessional and relatable music. I chatted with him before the start of his current tour to find out more about his songwriting process, the stories behind the songs and what’s next in store for Griffin House.

It’s been a while since your last release, has your songwriting process changed at all?
I think the songwriting process has remained the same. Life affects the subject matter. But in terms about how I go about writing, it’s the same way.

Does a song come out better when it’s based on real life or fantasy?

There’s always a little bit of both. A lot of the true stories that I’ve written have been based on real life and then they’ll take maybe a slight fictional turn for the sake of the song, to make the song work better. That’s usually how I go about it. I think a lot of times when you talk in first person people assume that it’s autobiographical but that’s not necessarily always the case.

Are you ever afraid to reveal too much in a song about your own life?
I’ve never been afraid to do that. I think in the beginning when I was writing, I used that more often. I think it was almost extremely confessional and revealing in a way and I think that’s part of what made the songs stick; their vulnerability. It’s a very tricky thing to do. Anybody can be vulnerable and say, ‘This is how I’m feeling and this is who I am.’ If you don’t do it in the right way it comes across as very trite. It’s something I’ve had to learn to work around but I also think that maybe I don’t hold back as much but I’m more conscious of what I’m doing.

Is there a song that means more to you now than when you first wrote it?
“Better Than Love” is a song that has turned out to be something that I play almost every night. At the time when I wrote it, I didn’t really want to write any songs that dealt with love or relationships and it just came out of me. It wasn’t what I was intentionally trying to go after. I was making a record in California with some of the guys in the Heartbreakers and some other really good musicians and I was trying to make more of a rock & roll record.

I wasn’t really all that excited about recording that song. Even when we w ere recording it, I just wanted to get it over with. It turned out to be one of my best songs for sure and one that I think has meant a lot to a lot of people. It just goes to show you that a lot of times the artist has no idea whether or not what he is creating is good. He or she may think that they’re creating the best thing in the world and it turns out to not be so special and other times they don’t think what they’re doing is anything and it turns out to be something really valuable.

“The Guy That Says Goodbye to You Is Out of His Mind” is one of my favorite tracks on that album. What is the story behind it?
That song was written in a way that was inspired by a girl that I just wanted to take out. We were out on a semi-date together and joked around that she’d marry me if I wrote her a song so I went home and wrote her a song. It was something that started obviously with a sense of humor but it really ended up incorporating a lot of heavier things that were going on under the surface too. It started out as a joke and then it took a multifaceted turn after a while. That song came out of nowhere. That was the same story, I didn’t know what I had until I played it for somebody else later and they said, ‘Oh man, that’s a hit song.’ I had no idea.

I was reading the stories behind some songs on your Website and “Heart of Stone” sounds like it was written subconsciously and after you wrote it you figured out more about your life. Does that happen a lot?
What happens is, a lot of times I see how maybe in my subconscious or underneath the surface I really know what’s going on but I won’t admit it to myself or maybe I’m in denial. So, when I write the answers all come down on the page but I might not see them until after, way after. Maybe a year down the line I’ll look back and go, ‘Oh I really knew what was going on I just wasn’t admitting it to myself in my conscious brain.’

How is the music scene in Nashville different from the rest of the country?
I think there is a sense of community here. First of all, it’s a smaller city so it’s become over the last six or seven years more densely populated with musicians so it’s easier for everyone to know one another. There does seem to be a sense of community. Everybody moved here to make it and a lot of people don’t mind helping each other out along the way and becoming friends and working together. While there’s always probably competition going on, maybe the Southern hospitality thing plays into a little bit where they don’t mind helping out a little bit.

It’s changed a lot since I moved here. When I moved here in 2003 I literally felt like one of the only people doing what I was doing which is an alternative style of music in Nashville, just a songwriter with a guitar. There were a lot of people in the country world and Christian world doing that but I felt there were only a handful of people doing what I was doing. Now, since I’ve been touring over the last five or six years I’ve come back to Nashville and have seen hundreds or thousands of people who have flocked here from all over the country to start doing music and I think it’s really had an influx of a lot of people since I moved here under that demographic.

How do you stand out being one of so many?
I don’t try to at all. First I moved here and tried to play as much as I could and tried to stand out as much as I could. Now I’m not on the scene at all. I’m actually not even that social. I have a routine where I go and I work on my hobbies that I do in my spare time. I’m a dad and I spend time at home with my wife and I do some yoga. When I go out on the road I’m in front of people. I don’t really mix it up in Nashville a whole lot.

What do you wish you knew before perusing music?
I don’t know. I was very green when I got here. I didn’t really know anything about the music business. It’s easy for me to look back and say, ‘If I had this bit of information then I would have done this differently.’ There’s really no telling where that would have taken me. It’s not like you can know what would have happened if you would have made a different choice. You just know it would be different. A lot of the learning I’ve had, I’m thankful I moved down here a long time ago and I’m still playing music and still enjoying it and still making progress. I can’t really ask for anything more than that. It’s been good.

What can fans expect from you in the next few months?

Well, I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’ve been thinking about maybe compiling a “Best of” record that has 10 or 12 songs that are maybe the most popular ones. Putting them on a record and re-releasing that so that other people can hear my music and have a better idea of what I’m about and what I’ve done over the last decade. That might come first before a brand new record. Maybe there will be a new song on that or something. That’s just an idea but that can very well happen.

What’s going through your mind while you’re onstage performing?

Sometimes you’re a million miles away in the middle of the song. You just get lost and forget where you are for a minute. A lot of the songs have been played so many times that you’re really on automatic. I try to think about singing the words and hitting the notes. It’s pretty simple. I try not to think about anything else other than what I’m doing at the moment and not get ahead of myself, what I’m going to say next or what happened a few minutes ago. It’s a good exercise in really being in the present moment and that’s usually when performances are the best, when you can do that well.

For more on Griffin House and his current tour dates, visit his Website.


Stream Griffin House’s Latest Release on AOL Music

Just over a year ago, I featured Griffin House as artist of the week. A colleague introduced me to him and I haven’t been able to stop listening since. His honesty and sincerity are evident in each song and he is one singer-songwriter to be on the lookout for.

Tomorrow, he releases The Learner but you can listen to the album in it’s entirety on AOL Music here. House blends the emotional with humor on his upcoming disc. Complete with songs about following your dreams (“Gotta Get Out”) and chasing an unobtainable girl (“She Likes Girls”), The Learner has much to offer listeners. Taking a step away from past albums, his LP has a much edgier feel.

“Feels So Right” is an upbeat track that’s bound to get your feet tapping with heavy musical accompaniment including piano, percussion, horn and guitar. Though the album is definitely a step in a new direction for the Nashville singer-songwriter, longtime fans will be pleased that his meaningful lyrics and deep vocals never falter as tracks like “Let My People Go” and “Native” can attest.

Be sure to give Griffin House’s new album a listen here and stay tuned for upcoming tour dates on his Web site. You can download “She Likes Girls” for free below.
Artist of the Week

Artist of the Week: Griffin House

I received an email recommendation a few weeks ago from fellow blogger Suze (you can read her blog, My Life is Like a Song here) suggesting singer-songwriter Griffin House. While the name sounded familiar, her and I both couldn’t remember if I blogged about him in the past. After doing a quick search I realized I hadn’t, and proceeded to listen to his music.

His voice sounded so familiar that I’m sure I’ve stumbled upon his music before, whether it be on another blog, in a movie or perhaps a television commercial. The first song on Griffin House’s MySpace page is “The Guy That Says Goodbye” (see video below) and right away pulls at your heartstrings. The light guitar strumming combined with gentle strokes of piano peaked my interest and the emotional lyrics only left me more intrigued. The sincerity he puts forth is inspiring.

“You don’t need to change a thing about you babe/I’m telling you from where I sit you’re one of a kind/Relationships I don’t know why they never work out and they make you cry/But the guy that says goodbye to you is out of his mind,” House sings throughout the chorus.

I thought “The Guy That Says Goodbye” would be my favorite, but each song gets better and better. The honesty and pure beauty of his lyrics move the listener and House’s talent is undeniable.

With lines like “You hold my hand and it’s better than love” in “Better Than Love” and the older, laid-back country vibe of “Live To Be Free,” each song is a new surprise. “Never Again” brings forth his brutal honesty when singing, “Never again am I gonna give my heart to a bullshit cause/I’ve had enough of lies and dark/Never again am I gonna waste my time on a bullshit road/It’s never been a friend of mine/Simple words from a simple man/Take me as I am ‘cause there’s no guarantee I’ll ever change.”

My recommendation: Listen to the lyrics closely or play the song while reading along word for word on MySpace.

Griffin House’s bio states that he wrote his first song for his high school sweetheart with whom he’d parted ways after graduation. When she came for a visit House played it for her and it brought her to tears. “Then I was hooked,” he said, “I thought, ‘Oh, man, if I can make people cry, I’m gonna keep doing this. I’m gonna make as many people cry as I can!'” After laughing at the memory, he put the experience in perspective: “What I was drawn to was the power of the song, how it could affect people emotionally.”

I believe it. Having continually refreshed his MySpace page after listening to the six-song selection, the emotion heard throughout each song never falters. Griffin House is well on his way. For the latest on Griffin, be sure to visit his Web site or listen to him on MySpace. You can watch the video for single, “The Guy That Says Goodbye” below.